Saying she'd been "drafted back into service," New Orleans City Council President Jackie Clarkson announced this afternoon she would be running for the District C seat, which she's held twice before. She is currently an at-large member of the council and term limited, and had announced earlier this year that she planned to retire when her term was up in 2014.
Clarkson had planned to stay home and care for her husband Buzz, but got back in the race at the urging of Mayor Mitch Landrieu when the current District C representative, Kristin Gisleson Palmer, announced last week she would not run for a second term. After Landrieu's urging, Clarkson said, she spent the weekend talking to her family — and that Buzz and her five children all urged her to run for office again.
The only other announced candidate in the District C race is former judge Nadine Ramsey, who also ran for mayor in 2010.
A small (and chilly) crowd gathered on the Algiers levee jogging path to hear Clarkson's announcement, among them Landrieu, Palmer, State Rep. Helena Moreno and Roy Glapion, head of the New Orleans Recreation Department Foundation.
The event also dashed a bit of cold water on the nascent campaign of Cynthia Willard-Lewis, the former councilwoman from District E, who will announce on Thursday she is challenging the freshman incumbent in District E, James Gray. Willard-Lewis is a longtime ally of Landrieu's, but in a conversation after Clarkson made her announcement, Landrieu said he would be endorsing Gray rather than Willard-Lewis. "Cynthia and I are friends," he said, "but this is about results rather than friendship."
Clarkson intends to remain neutral in the District E race. She said she was supporting, if not endorsing, all the incumbents in the council race, but when asked specifically about Gray, she hesitated. "I mean, I'm supporting the incumbents whom I've worked with for a long time," she said.
Landrieu said he is endorsing Councilwomen Susan Guidry and LaToya Cantrell, the incumbent representatives in Districts A and B, as well as State Rep. Jared Brossett in District D and Gray in District E. He declined to endorse in the two at-large council races — the frontrunner in one of which is Council Vice President Stacy Head, with whom Landrieu has clashed in the past. (Clarkson is supporting Head, and was at Head's own campaign announcement in New Orleans City Park on Saturday morning.)
Candidates for the election must file qualification documents Dec. 11-13, and campaigning is expected to begin in earnest after the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The election will be held Feb. 1, with an runoff (if necessary) March 15, 2014.